CMS suc­ces­sion plan

Taven­ner’s con­fir­ma­tion prospects ap­pear bright

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK IN HEALTHCARE - Rich Daly

Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion of the nom­i­nee to head the CMS is crit­i­cal to the con­tin­ued im­ple­men­ta­tion of the health­care re­form law, and early signs in­di­cate that Mar­i­lyn Taven­ner is likely to get it. Taven­ner, for­merly the CMS’ sec­ond-in­com­mand, took the helm at the agency Dec. 2 when Dr. Don­ald Berwick re­signed his post. She is much less well known than Berwick, a long­time ad­vo­cate of over­haul­ing the U.S. health­care sys­tem who drew Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion over his praise of the Bri­tish so­cial­ized health­care sys­tem. The op­po­si­tion was sig­nif­i­cant enough that Sen. Max Bau­cus (DMont.), chair­man of the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, which has ju­ris­dic­tion over the nom­i­na­tion of the CMS ad­min­is­tra­tor, de­clined even to hold a hear­ing on Berwick.

So far, Bau­cus has is­sued no pub­lic po­si­tions on Taven­ner, and his staff said any hear­ing will await the ar­rival of her back­ground doc­u­ments from the White House.

But some of her sup­port­ers see in­di­ca­tions that she may face sig­nif­i­cantly less Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion be­cause of her lower-key per­sonal style.

For in­stance, Sen. Tom Carper (D-del.), a mem­ber of the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, said in an in­ter­view with Modern Health­care that he was en­cour­aged by House Ma­jor­ity Leader Eric Can­tor’s (R-VA.) re­cent com­ments to the As­so­ci­ated Press sup­port­ing her con­fir­ma­tion. “I might be wrong here, but I feel like in the last cou­ple of months, we’re less grid­locked here and less par­ti­san,” Carper said.

Taven­ner’s nom­i­na­tion has gen­er­ally drawn ei­ther a muted or a wait-and-see re­sponse from Se­nate Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing Sen. Or­rin Hatch (R-utah), the rank­ing mem­ber of the panel with ju­ris­dic­tion over her nom­i­na­tion.

“Any nom­i­nee to a fed­eral agency with this much power and au­thor­ity over the lives of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans must be care­fully scru­ti­nized,” Hatch said in a writ­ten state­ment. “Repub­li­cans on the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee look for­ward to ex­am­in­ing her record and gain­ing an un­der­stand­ing of her views of Medi­care, Med­i­caid and the pres­i­dent’s health law.”

Chip Kahn, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Hos­pi­tals, said the lack of im­me­di­ate op­po­si­tion from Repub­li­cans and their de­sire for hear­ings are good signs that Taven­ner is not a light­ning rod for an­other par­ti­san fight. Kahn, who has known Taven­ner for 10 years, said her Capi­tol Hill in­ter­ac­tions with Repub­li­cans will play to her deft per­sonal touch.

“One thing that’s clear is that she knows how to work across the aisle,” Kahn said, which he said was dis­played in her former role as Vir­ginia’s sec­re­tary of health and hu­man re­sources un­der former Gov. Tim Kaine. “She did that when she worked in the state of Vir­ginia, and to

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